Climate Engineering Conference Series: Critical Global Discussions 

Climate engineering is an increasingly encountered topic within political, scientific, and cultural discussions of climate change. Building on the success of the two previous international climate engineering conference in 2014 (CEC14), and 2017 (CEC17) by organizing the CEC conference series, we strive to continue critical global discussions by bringing together the research, policy, and civic communities to discuss the highly complex and interlinked ethical, social and technical issues related to climate engineering. The conference will provide a thorough and timely update on the latest developments in the field. We seek to facilitate discussions about the future development of research on reflecting sunlight away from Earth and removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, within the context of efforts to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change. CECs thereby serve as an opportunity for a diverse audience of scientists, policy-makers, civil society organizations, and members of the public to critically engage with current research and the broader discussions that surround it.


More than 10 years have passed since Paul Crutzen's seminal article in Climatic Change sparked an unprecedented surge in discussions of options for reflecting sunlight away from Earth to reduce the impacts of climate change. Together with proposals for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, the topic has developed from a fringe issue into an interdisciplinary conversation that is increasingly recognized as one of the central challenges in contemporary climate change research and politics. Numerous national and multinational research projects have been established that often address both sets of proposals, reflecting sunlight and removing carbon, referring to them collectively under the umbrella term “climate engineering”. These include the German Research Foundation (DFG) Priority Programme on climate engineering, the EU-funded European Transdisciplinary Assessment of Climate Engineering (EuTRACE)*, the UK-Research Council funded Climate Geoengineering Governance Project (CGG)*, the Chinese National Key Basic Research Program’s Mechanism and Impacts of Geoengineering Project, the Norwegian Research Council’s EXPECT project, the Solar Radiation Management Governance Initiative (SRMGI), an Academic Working Group (AWG) on International Governance of Climate Engineering initiated by the Forum for Climate Engineering Assessment (FCEA), the Carnegie Climate Geoengineering Governance Project, and the Geoengineering Model Intercomparison Project (GeoMIP)[1]. A research group dedicated to geoengineering has also been established at Harvard University, and researchers at several other prominent institutions in the USA, UK, Germany, Japan, Canada, Holland and an increasing number of other countries are investigating various aspects of geoengineering. A plethora of young researchers are now pursuing their graduate studies on climate engineering.

Governmental agencies including the US National Academy of Science, the US Government Accountability Office, the German Federal Environmental Agency and Federal Ministry of Education and Research, and the Office of Technology Assessment of the German Bundestag have published reports on the implications of climate engineering. The Paris Agreement has led to increased discussion of the possible need for some climate engineering measures to meet the legally binding 2°C target, and, in particular, the ambitious 1.5°C target – noting that carbon dioxide removal has already been extensively included in emissions scenarios, especially the ambitious RCP2.6 scenarios. The latest IPCC assessment report addressed climate engineering measures in all three Working Group reports, and the Chair of the IPCC was recently quoted calling for the panel to continue to investigate both the technical and governance aspects of climate engineering. 

While the topic has received increased attention in recent years, calls for separating out the individual proposals that are being subsumed under the umbrella term “climate engineering” are increasing. This has led to debate as to the appropriateness of continuing to consider climate engineering as an overarching “field of research” at all. At this important juncture in the debate, CEC20 will provide the opportunity to take stock of what these developments mean for the future research into the proposed techniques which thus far have been subsumed under the term climate engineering. The conference will address approaches for both Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) and Solar Radiation Management (SRM, also known as Albedo Modification), situating them within broader discussions of climate change and, in particular, mitigation and adaptation.

What implications might the Paris Agreement have for climate engineering research and development? How are Solar Radiation Management (SRM) and Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) technologies related to each other and to mitigation and adaptation? How may the push for an increasing differentiation between individual climate engineering proposals affect the future of the “field” of climate engineering? To what extent could some climate engineering measures help avoid or reduce some of the worst consequences of climate change? Are some climate engineering approaches more prone to error, side effects and misuse than others? How should research aimed at answering these questions be governed?

These questions, and many others raised by the prospect of climate engineering, involve complex ethical, social, political and technical issues. Building upon the success of the first international climate engineering conference held in 2014 (CEC14), the organizers of this conference hope to once again provide a forum for critical global discussions, vigorous exchange and creative dialogue by research, policy and civic communities on these and many more questions.

The conference will provide a thorough and timely update on the latest developments in the field, being situated between the first Gordon Research Conference on Solar Climate Geoengineering in July and the COP23 in Bonn in November 2017, and will facilitate discussions about the future development of CE research. CEC17 will also serve as an opportunity for a diverse audience of policy-makers, civil society organizations, and members of the public to critically engage with current research and the broader discussions that surround it.


The overarching objectives of CEC17 are:

  • Bringing together the debate’s diverse stakeholders – academics as well as representatives from the policy and civil society communities.
  • Providing a forum to (1) present and discuss results, (2) review the state of the debate, and (3) scope key research questions and challenges for academia and society.
  • Providing a forum for experimentation with innovative session formats to address the complexity of issues around the topic of climate engineering.
  • Providing a platform for networking, collaboration and exchange across disciplines, sectors (particularly academia, policy and civil society), countries, continents, and generations.


The conference is primarily an academic event, but it will reflect the IASS’s transdisciplinary approach. Accordingly, the conference intends to provide a venue for explorations of climate engineering via disciplinary research, interdisciplinary collaboration, and transdisciplinary engagement. In disciplinary research, specific questions are addressed from a single disciplinary perspective at a great level of specialization and depth. In interdisciplinary collaboration, specific questions are addressed simultaneously from different disciplinary perspectives. In transdisciplinary engagement, new approaches that merge more traditional disciplinary perspectives with input from different stakeholder communities, such as academics, NGOs, the media, and policymakers, provide new frameworks for discussing issues of collective interest and relevance.

The conference is intended to last four days, with an opening event on Monday evening and full days Tuesday to Thursday. Sessions may have multiple conveners, and collaborative proposals are encouraged. Key aims are to reflect on the heterogeneity of the field and to better understand how SRM and CDR intersect with each other and with mitigation and adaptation strategies. Proposals for innovative session formats are strongly encouraged.

The CEC17 Steering Committee (see below) will issue a call for session proposals to invite interested stakeholders (academics and non-academics alike) to submit their ideas for sessions. Session submissions will be subject to anonymized peer review, with each session being reviewed by at least two members of the Steering Committee and the Advisory Group. Abstract submissions to individual sessions will be subject to peer review by the session conveners in close collaboration with the Steering Committee. Contributions are welcome to span a range of creative mediums, and participants will also be encouraged to communicate their ideas through posters and other visual media (e.g. films, interactive exhibits). These items will be on display in a space that will also serve as a common area for discussion and contemplation throughout the conference, and efforts will be made to strongly link the sessions with this area, as well as to create an engaging atmosphere.

Structures and Organization

The following structures for organizing the conference have been established:

  • The Management Team focuses on two main tasks. First, it assures the intellectual coherence of the overall conference by taking on the central management and facilitating role. Second, it takes responsibility for the actual logistical organization. As its tasks require local presence in Potsdam/Berlin, the Management Team is staffed by the IASS. The Management Team is composed of the following members:

Schäfer, Stefan                         Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies

Boettcher, Miranda                 Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies

Low, Sean                                  Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies

Parker, Andy                            Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies

Bobzien, Corinna                    Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies

Fasheh, Jana                            Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies

  • All Steering Committee members are early career researchers and practitioners with a strong knowledge of the field. The Steering Committee identifies the key questions and themes that should be addressed at CEC17, as well as key stakeholders who should participate. The members of the Steering Committee are invited to submit session proposals that will also be subject to anonymized peer review, but will also review others’ proposals. After CEC17, the Steering Committee will write the Conference Report (see below) as well as other outputs from the conference. The Steering Committee will have two meetings prior to the conference. The Steering Committee is composed of the following members:


Schäfer, Stefan (Chair)             Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies

Boettcher, Miranda                  Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies

Buck, Holly                                 Cornell University

Collins, George                         Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre

Heyen, Daniel                           London School of Economics

Heyward, Clare                        University of Warwick

Kravitz, Ben                              Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Low, Sean                                Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies

Moore, Nigel                             Waterloo Institute for Sustainable Energy

Parker, Andy                            Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies

Scott, Vivian                             University of Edinburgh

Vaughan, Naomi                      University of East Anglia


  • The Advisory Group consists of a diverse set of eminent researchers and practitioners in the science, policy, and civil society communities, who are engaged in discussions relevant to climate engineering. The Advisory Group will provide recommendations to the Steering Committee. The Advisory Group will not have a dedicated in-person meeting as a whole group, but will be consulted by the Steering Committee at regular intervals during the conference planning process. The input requested from the Advisory Group will depend on the progress of the Steering Committee; furthermore, the Advisory Group members are welcome to provide additional input and recommendations through the Advisory Group and/or Steering Committee chair at any time. The Advisory Group is composed of the following members:

Lawrence, Mark (Chair)          Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies

Caldeira, Ken                            Carnegie Institution for Science

Ghosh, Arunabha                    Council for Energy, Environment and Water

Hamilton, Clive                        Charles Sturt University

Keith, David                              Harvard University

Lenton, Tim                             University of Exeter

Long, Jane                               Retired, formerly Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

MacMartin, Douglas             California Institute of Technology

Morton, Oliver                        The Economist

Nicholson, Simon                   American University

Oschlies, Andreas                   Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research

Robock, Alan                            Rutgers University

Russell, Lynn                            University of California-San Diego

Suarez, Pablo                           Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre

Viola, Eduardo                          University of Brasilia


The following key outputs are suggested. It should be noted that not all of these need be pursued and contributions to any would be entirely voluntary. The list will be refined in further discussion with the organizing committees in the lead-up to the conference.

  • Conference Report: A report summarizing the key lessons from all sessions. The report would likely amount to 50-100 pages (See CEC14 report).
  • Website and associated media: The conference website will be maintained containing conference information, media, and outputs.
  • Video: Video recordings of plenary sessions will be made available online.
  • Survey: Survey of participants’ views about future research developments.

In addition, we are open to suggestions from session proposers on outputs.



[1] While GeoMIP addresses only solar climate engineering options, a pendant is currently being established that will address carbon removal approaches (CDRMIP).

*Projects concluded.